CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Argentina

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Last updated on 28.09.2018 at 15:51

Overview

Despite limitations in the exercise of some civic space freedoms, which are particularly apparent at the local level, Argentine civil society is robust and highly visible and has played a positive role in recent legal reforms. The media is highly polarised, and stigmatising statements and criticism by public officials impede the healthy deliberation of public issues.

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Protests in Argentina after Senate rejected bill to legalise abortion

Protests in Argentina after Senate rejected bill to legalise abortion

On 9th August 2018, thousands gathered outside the National Congress building waiting for the results of the Senate vote.

Peaceful Assembly

As reported previously on the Monitor, in the context of legislation discussed in the House of Representatives which sought to decriminalise the voluntary interruption of a pregnancy during the first 14 weeks, Congress approved the legislation in June 2018. The next step was for the Senate (Argentina upper house of the National Congress) to endorse the legislation for final approval. 

On 9th August 2018, thousands gathered outside the National Congress building waiting for the results of the Senate vote. Despite a widespread popular campaign for the bill to be approved, the Argentinian Senate rejected the bill. Following the announcement of the results, demonstrators reactions were mostly peaceful. However, reports indicate that a few pro-abortion protesters started fires and threw stones at police. Several protesters were arrested as a result. Optimism from female activists prevailed

“We will no longer be silent and we won’t let them win, ... Abortion will be legal soon. Very soon.” 

Some female activists claimed that "pressure from the Catholic church prevented its approval". As a result, thousands of citizens started formal proceedings to leave the Catholic Church, as a form of protest against the church’s campaign against the legalisation of abortion. Protesters consider that apostasy is an important symbolic and political act. They are demanding that their names be erased from church registers and that their baptismal certificates be physically destroyed.

Expression

On 28th August 2018, Carolina Mulder, a photographer with media outlet La Voz del Pueblo, was attacked and threatened by workers of Pronto Casa corporation, while she was taking pictures of them extracting wood in the Vivero in Claromecó,  zone in the province of Buenos Aires, an area in which cutting trees is prohibited. According to Mulder, the workers grabbed her phone and tried to make her delete the photos. They also threatened her with burning her house if she published the information. The Asociación de Entidades Periodísticas Argentinas (Argentinean Association of Journalistic Entities, ADEPA), condemned the attack and called on the authorities to sanction those responsible for the aggression. 

In a separate incident, journalist Federico Tolchinsky, from media outlet El Doce in Córdoba, was threatened through social networks due to his reports about an alleged case of corruption linked with the Garbage Collectors and Street Sweepers Union, SURRBAC.

The Foro de Periodismo Argentino (Argentinean Journalism Forum, FOPEA) an the Asociación de Entidades Periodísticas Argentinas (Argentinean Association of Journalistic Entities, ADEPA) condemned the public threats made to the journalist and demanded "the judicial authorities to identify the perpetrators and take appropriate measures".

In another development, the Senate prevented some media workers from alternative media outlets from accessing the parliamentary debate on the legalisation of abortion held on 9th August 2018. According to the Senate's official statement, the capacity of the session was limited due to restructuring work in the Chamber, which limited the capacity of the room to only 70 people.The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), rejected the decision of the Senate as a severe restriction to freedom of expression and to citizen' right to access information.

Association

The right to create and operate civil society organisations is guaranteed in Argentina. NGOs, trade unions, grassroots organisations and advocacy groups are legally recognised, are robust and play a major role in society.

The right to create and operate civil society organisations is guaranteed in Argentina. NGOs, trade unions, grassroots organisations and advocacy groups are legally recognised, are robust and play a major role in society. Although they were not designed to hinder free association, legal and tax frameworks are outdated and do, in practice, make it hard for CSOs to operate effectively. Reform efforts have so far reached a dead end. There are no legal restrictions in place regarding access to international or private funding, although political criticism of CSOs linked to “imperialistic” donors abounds.


Peaceful Assembly

Peaceful protests are frequent in Argentina, and people are able to demonstrate mostly without constraint; no prior authorisation requirements are in place. However, a newly issued protocol on police action during demonstrations would allow the security forces to use firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

Peaceful protests are frequent in Argentina, and people are able to demonstrate mostly without constraint; no prior authorisation requirements are in place. However, a newly issued protocol on police action during demonstrations would allow the security forces to use firearms or rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Civil society organisations worry that this decision limits constitutional rights by placing “the unhindered movement of traffic above people’s physical integrity”, and they see a worrying trend towards the repression and criminalisation of social protest. At the local level, police repression has traditionally been more common, frequently targeting disadvantaged indigenous groups. Additionally, in August 2015 dozens of protesters were injured when local police used rubber bullets and batons against a largely peaceful demonstration voicing allegations of electoral fraud in the province of Tucumán.


Expression

Argentina is a relatively safe country for journalists, but there have been cases of harassment and political intimidation by provincial governments. In December 2013, Juan Pablo Suárez, a newspaper editor, was arrested and later accused of sedition and inciting collective violence under the highly criticized antiterrorism law.

Argentina is a relatively safe country for journalists, but there have been cases of harassment and political intimidation by provincial governments. In December 2013, Juan Pablo Suárez, a newspaper editor, was arrested and later accused of sedition and inciting collective violence under the highly criticized antiterrorism law. In another case, the home of radio journalist Sergio Hurtado was attacked by two armed men who warned him to stop reporting about drugs. Argentina lacks a federal access to information law. Reliable statistics have also been lacking for several years as a result of governmental manipulation.In 2009, Congress approved a law to regulate the broadcast media that includes provisions to increase plurality in the media. The legislation was heavily opposed by opposition political leaders and large media groups, arguing that the government in power would have too much influence over the media.